Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Stalingrad Project: Third Test Game

Last night up at the club, I we ran a third test game for Stalingrad.  For a change we used the Southern end of the board so this was the first time that section has seen in "action".  This first picture is taken from the Western (German) edge.  

A second shot looking on from the Volga river bank.  The overall table is 17 columns of 18 hexes each.  It took less than 30 minutes to set up - putting the hex column and row #'s on the back of the hexes really proved useful.  I realize that seems like a very silly detail to remark about but this game is designed to travel to conventions so set up complexity and timing are important factors.

The full table if 30 columns by 18 rows!

We had a light turn out so only two players for me to torture with my draft rules.  Both Greg and Ed were very gracious in letting me continue my self delusion that I am a rules writer.  

Artillery lands from both sides and causes havoc.  The artillery rules seems to work well. It pretty devastating when it lands!

We managed to get five turns in - the forces I laid out were likely to big to be handled by only two players

Greg's grenadiers launch a two platoon assault supported by a pair of Panzer II's.  The cleared out the building.

The Univermag Department store is very strongly defended by a Guards Rifle platoon plus a heavy machine gun section.

I tested some new aspects of the rules, some of which worked, some of which not so much.

Stuff that worked:

Command Cards:
The turn sequence is based on players alternating activating platoons.  I made up a deck of command cards for each side.  It proved to be very useful to keep track of who's moved what and each card had a minot special ability that a player could elect to use instead of moving a platoon.  They were limited to one special ability per turn.  I'll do a future post on the cards but it seemed to work really well.  The trick will be to refine the "special abilities" to be usefull and fun but not too powerful that they determine who wins.

Removal of the Auto Rally Phase:
Previous games had a separate rally phase were every unit that was either Shaken or Routed would roll to rally - that proved to be too effective.  Now, the only way to Rally is when the platoon activates so it cut down the rally rolls by half.

Game Pace: 
We only got in 5 turns over 2.5 hours but these were very big forces for two players to control and they were playing with new rules.  Each side had 14-15 maneuver platoons between their 3 infantry companies and support elements.  Urban environment terrain is also very complex with all of the line of sight checks so running 30 minutes per turn felt OK - I think it can get down to 20 minutes with some rules refinements and a lower unit "work-load" per player.  Most participation games run in a 4 hour time slot, of which the first 30 minutes are dedicated to introductions and a rules overview so you get roughly 3.5 hours of play time.  If I get it to 20 minutes a turn that will allow for 10-11 turns which should be plenty.  

Stuff that needs to be improved:

Currently Infantry has 4 Movement Points per turn and the terrain is pretty simple - 1MP for a clear / road hex, 2 MPs for a building / rubble.  The table is 18 hexes deep so it will take 5 - 6 turns to traverse without interference from the enemy.  I think I need to bump Infantry movement up to 6 MPs/turn and make corresponding adjustments for vehicles.  Games need to have a sense of movement to keep the pace up.

Close Assault Mechanics:
The current draft rules only allows units to mount a close assault (move into a defenders hex) if they start their activation adjacent to the target hex.  That is proving cumbersome and there are already rules for overwatch fire as units move.  I'm thinking of adding a feature to allow units to mount a "Hasty Assault" while moving or a "Deliberate Assault" is they start in an adjacent hex.  The deliberate assault would get some form of attack benefit which I need to figure out.  To be honest, this is a suggestion from Greg but I am more than happy to take credit for it.

Defensive Saves:
Fire combat is pretty simple - the attacker rolls a pool of D6 "Fire Power Dice" based on the type of units that are attacking and every 4+ is a hit, the defender rolls saves on those hits, with the 5+ base save augmented by terrain and entrenchment.  Their is an ability to stack these modifiers so defenders dave on anything but a "1" - I think I need to back that off to make any 1 or 2 rolled on a save a fail.  Ed played the Soviets and he is a natural burrower and dug in any chance he could get.  Ed is a very thematically correct Soviet player.  This one will require some thinking, which as you can surmise from my tortured prose is not something I'm all that good at.

I really do want to thank Ed and Greg again for being lab rats for my little passion project.  They are both very experienced gamers and provide great feedback and did so in a way that didn't make me cry (that much).  This  game is getting close to being "convention ready" and now all I'll need are some conventions!


Ray Rousell said...

Superb looking table Sir!

Mad Padre said...

The table looks great - nice mix of visual effect and practicality for easy movement to shows. I'm interested in how the playtesting goes.
I've just discovered Little Wars TV - I know, I've been under a rock for a while :) but I'm so impressed by what you guys do. The Bull Run game was amazingly well done in the transition from the larger map to the tabletop. I hope to visit your club some day when travel happens.

Miles said...

thank you for the kind comments

Miles said...

Mad Padre: You would be most welcome in Maryland, should you find yourself in the mid Atlantic region. I think a trip to the club can be arranged in a post covid world.